Alison StewartHigh Noon for the deer

It’s High Noon for the deer! At first I found it enchanting, early in the morning, to come face to face with a startled doe looking in through the window. But that was before I started trying to knock the garden into shape. They’re like very large, furry, four-footed snails: when they find something they like they come back to it night after night until they’ve stripped it bare.

But will they eat anything you want to get rid of? Not on your life. They won’t touch the rampaging Equisetum arvense (horsetail) or the lurid pinky-mauve Rhododendron ponticum or the dreaded Japanese knotweed. They spurn the orange Crocosmia that infests the whole area but cheerfully chomp their way through the non-invasive yellow variety ‘George Davison’. And they’re unpredictable: last year they didn’t eat Aquilegia, but this year it’s their favourite munchie. Our neighbours’ Aucuba hedge was untouched for 20 years but now it has been shaved to the trunks all along the exposed side.

Dr Sandy has an electrified trip wire circling a large part of his back garden to protect his most precious plants. It seems to keep the furry monsters out (even though they could presumably jump over it if they wanted to) but he only has to forget to turn it on for one night and they’re back in there. I was having coffee with Morag last week when he stomped in brandishing a piece of chewed-up bergenia and muttering about shotguns and venison.

I looked into the electrified fence idea but decided that, for us, it would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut. All half-hectare of our garden is enclosed by walls, so I realised that if we freed up the big front gates so that they will close again, then all we would need to do is increase the height of a low stretch of wall between us and the side lane, and there should be nowhere they can get in.

I’ve bought a roll of 2-metre high deer netting from a company that sells it online. Jim D managed to get hold of some fence posts (best not to enquire where from …) and now he has stapled the netting to it so we are in business! It’s not a thing of beauty but it doesn’t look too bad. As long as we can make sure that everyone remembers to close the front gate, perhaps I can now go ahead and buy those Japanese maples I’ve been longing for. Best not to get too carried away though. Now that we can keep the deer out I’ve got a horrible feeling we might discover that it’s not the deer that have been snacking on the Sedums and nibbling all the new shoots off the three charming little Hebe rakaensis that I’d just planted in the garden near the west wall – but rabbits.

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